Artist to Artist: Doc Sleep and Dabecy
A love and passion for their local scene brought Room 4 Resistance resident Doc Sleep and Electronic Music Bears founder Dabecy together. Seeing a gaping hole in the scene in their home of San Francisco, the idea for Jacktone was conceived as a platform to support and showcase the thriving music community around them.
Genre and stylistic constraints aren't at play, for the pair it comes down to connection, it has to move them. Since launching the imprint in 2013 the output has spanned a wide breadth of music from ambient to electro, dream pop and industrial, demonstrating how fervent and diverse the electronic music scene is in the city.
Here they quiz one another on formative years in the SF Bay Area, mind expanding raves and what the future could hold for Jacktone…
Doc Sleep: You self-released experimental noise music when you were a baby I hear. When did you start?
Dabecy: Haha! That is kind of true! I began creating avant-garde music and sound around the age of 16 if I remember right. My main piece of gear was an old Yamaha VSS-30 PortaSound Voice Sampling synth. It had a built in mic and you could sample directly into it. It could completely fuck sounds up with looping, reversing, frequency and amplitude modulation. I’ve never heard anything like that thing since. The kicker was you could not store the sounds you created. This meant recording right when I had a sound I loved.
Another medium I used a lot in my music was destroyed CDs. I’d scratch them up myself by rubbing them outside on the pavement. When you stuck them in the CD player they’d profusely skip and create the most wild rhythms. I’d take the bus to Tower Records where they had an experimental tape section and sell them there on consignment. They’d sell out, which surprised the hell out of me!
Doc Sleep: Can you tell me about your involvement in the experimental / noise scene in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Dabecy: I sent all of my noise tapes to a zine called Factsheet Five where they would be reviewed. That’s how legendary SF noise pioneer Elden M, most noted for his Allegory Chapel and his work at Subterranean Records, heard about my music. He kind of took me under his wing. I never forget a show he took me to where THE HATERS performed. It was at some random spot on Haight Street. It felt more like an office space than a bar or club. Chairs were set up and the 50-60 or so people there sat looking at a set of random items. A sofa, a metal desk, just a bunch of random things. When the show started they came in and just trashed the entire set using their bare hands, power saws and drills. It was a trip.
Doc Sleep: You used to go to the infamous 90s raves in San Francisco. Do you have any favorites or special stories from that time period?
Dabecy: In the early 90s, my friend Cait and I started going to a club in SF called Big Heart City. Cait was a DJ at KFJC, a well known college radio station in the Bay. We’d go to a night Pete Avila put on called Osmosis. I’d get in using her boyfriend's ID! Somehow Cait always got us in the VIP room hosted by a super eccentric club fixture named Tornado. I just remember the most outlandish cast of characters in that room. This is where we started getting passed underground after-hours party flyers. This led us to the raves that changed our lives: Floppy’s Flophouse, Wicked, Toon Town and A Rave Called Sharon.
I remember heading to a rave in the middle of nowhere. We had to walk on a winding trail and then, If I remember correctly, a cornfield. At this point, the tab of LSD was kicking in and you could hear the kick drum and arpeggiated synths. We came to a clearing that looked down onto the rave. Mind was blown. The track was Eden Transmission – I'm So High/I'm So High (Ubud Mix). The track bouncing and echoing around the open air was a next-level experience. The early 90s SF Bay rave scene had a huge impact on me as a music maker and as a designer.
Doc Sleep: What artists, labels and designers have had a huge impact on your life?
Dabecy: This could get real long. I’m going to narrow it down to five artist/bands that have been a huge part of my life since High School and still are to this day: Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and Depeche Mode. When it comes to design I’ve always loved Herbert Bayer, Ikko Tanaka, Karel Martens and Neville Brody to name a few. I think one of the main ones though would be Vaughn Oliver, who recently passed away, and the work he did on 4AD.
Doc Sleep: Where do you see Jacktone/Dreamtone going in the next few years?
Dabecy: Interesting question to think about during these crazy times for sure but I hope we just keep moving forward as we continue to do. I wish we could do the label full time! Looking in my crystal ball this is what I’m seeing. I see the label collaborating and creating larger scale community-based projects. I see the label putting on more curated events that showcase our producers and artists. I see more fine artists collaborating with our producers. I see more unique packaging ideas and a Jacktone podcast that takes an out of the box approach!
Dabecy: Is there an artist or album in particular that got you hooked on electronic music?
Doc Sleep: I was collecting music in the vein of Solex, Nighmares on Wax, Tricky, UNKLE – that kind of indie electronic and head-noddy trip hop, which eventually lead me down a new wormhole of digging at the record shops near my apartment in Minneapolis – Let it Be and the Electric Fetus. Like a lot of people outside the major city dance hubs, I first found the DJ-Kicks and Global Underground mix series. The Andrea Parker, Kemistry & Storm DJ-Kicks, and Danny Tenaglia’s GU’s turned my world upside down! I was going out dancing pretty much every night at the gay clubs, but I wasn't hearing this kind of music, so I would get home from clubbing and have another few of hours of dancing alone in my tiny studio apartment – blasting DJ mixes, chain-smoking Marlboro Reds, then get up at 7 am to walk to work. Rinse and repeat until I moved to San Francisco in 2001.
Dabecy: What album or artist got you into club (house/techno) music?
Doc Sleep: My first experiences with dance music involved dancing to Armand Van Helden and New Order in a bowling alley banquet room in Fargo.
Dabecy: Regardless of genre, people have records they can always go back to. Which ones are yours.
Doc Sleep: Low – I Could Live in Hope
Prince – Around the World in a Day
OMD – Dazzle Ships
Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Angie Stone – Mahogany Soul
Electrelane – Rock it to the Moon
Erase Errata – Other Animals
Talib Kweli & Hi Tek – Reflection Eternal
Jimi Tenor – Organism
Blonde Redhead – Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Kelley Deal 6000 – Canyon
FSOL – Lifeforms
Warp – Artificial Intelligence series
Rei Harakami – Lust
Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come
Lush – Spooky
Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels
Dabecy: What have you learned from running Jacktone? What has been the most rewarding?
Doc Sleep: I learn so much with every release. You’re working with the artists to realize their vision for the music, so talking through the concepts / themes of the release, how they recorded it, what artwork or visual concepts they’re thinking about, format/media, track sequencing, mastering direction, etc. As you move through this process with them and gather more context about the release, you develop an even deeper connection to the music and the person who made it. It’s really rewarding to land on something that inspires us all.
Dabecy: What current producers inspire you the most?
Doc Sleep: I continue to be inspired by music coming out of the Bay Area. Jacktone has provided a way to stay connected to the scene, so having a front row seat to witness pals improve and experiment with each new release is about as rewarding as it gets for me. And, as it goes, there are a lot of new folks stepping up, younger kids, many I don't know since I moved a while ago now, and they're bringing a fresh perspective, different frames of reference and influences. It's really exciting to see what will happen and how it will mutate. The Bay remains a freak zone, despite how inhospitable it is for artists.